The wind was howling, furiously chasing bands of ominous clouds across the grim sky. With those bands of dark clouds came flakes the size of dandelions, clinging to tree branches and coating the ground, and as quick as they came, they were gone again. Then the wind resumed trying to push yet another squall past the mountain. Invisible, icy fingers stung my ears and face but being outside was still a blessing, feeling the cold touch of the passing snow, those intense moments of white out followed by clear, empty sky. It was the in-between time where spring and winter battle for the day, sap begins to run from the maples, and mud colors the snow a reddish brown as fast as it falls from the sky. I had chores to do, trees to tap, and a family walk in the woods to our little cabin.
It was at that cabin that I began to notice the quiet reminders. I was retrieving water from the dark pantry of the winterized cabin when I saw the first couple. I was reaching for a dry towel to wipe some snow from everyone's hands and faces when the next few peaked out from atop the cabinet. Rehydrated and rested, we tromped back down to the barn to continue our daily chore routine. Another two were hiding in the barn when I grabbed the hay rake. With the chores complete, I fired up the grill and caught another in the closet next to the steak sauce. A belly filled with meat and potatoes, a body chilled by the wind, I quietly reclined by the fire to watch the embers glow. It was in that glow that the final one caught me.
I had pulled my favorite beer pint from the cabinet and was about to fill it. A short walk to the fridge and I noticed there were only a few candidates left, the perfect beer for the moment at hand. And hiding just behind that cold beer was that final special one, a Christmas brew, bottled and corked goodness, given to me as a Christmas present. I had made a promise to myself to keep that one in the back of the fridge until the person that gave it to me visited and we could both enjoy it together, as it should be. That is when it all came rushing in, right there in the dim half-light of the refrigerator light. They were stalking me all day, tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the farm, the bottles of special craft beer I had stashed for when friends came to visit. Some of them had been put away years ago in anticipation of deer season or a camping trip or fishing weekend. Each waiting for the right moment to be opened and savored. And each filled with not only good beer but good memories, heavy with the thought of friends.
Maybe those anticipated moments will never come. Maybe the politics of family and work has separated us. Maybe it is just too easy to keep in touch by phone or computer. Maybe life has caught us all and there is no time to slow down and savor a sip and a fire. Maybe those hidden bottles will never be opened. And, yet again, maybe there will be a day when a knock on the door brings a reason to dust off the bottles. Who knows? But right then, I pushed the Christmas brew deeper into the fridge and closed the door. That bottle would wait for it's moment.